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Catherine Deneuve Apologizes To Victims Of Sexual Violence For Letter About #MeToo


In an open letter published today, French film star Catherine Deneuve apologized to the victims of sexual violence she might have offended by signing another open letter last week. That letter accused the #MeToo movement of going too far and turning into a puritanical witch hunt. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: In a long letter published in newspaper Liberation, Deneuve said, I warmly salute all the victims of these hideous acts who might have felt offended by that letter. She was referring to the open letter published on January 10 in Le Monde newspaper. Deneuve says she still stands by the first letter and defended its points. She said it in no way condoned harassment, or she would not have signed it. But the letter did defend a man's right to hit on a woman as fundamental to sexual freedom. The signatories also deplored a wave of social media denunciations they said was hurting innocent men, and they said a puritanical movement was trying to sanitize artistic expression.

French feminists reacted angrily, accusing the signatories of trivializing violence against women and setting back the #MeToo movement. Today Deneuve said she wanted to clarify her position after the huge backlash. She was also undoubtedly looking to put some distance between herself and some other co-signatories who took the debate way beyond the original letter.


BRIGITTE LAHAIE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: During a TV debate, actress Brigitte Lahaie, who signed the letter, said a woman could derive pleasure during a sexual assault. This statement seemed to stupefy everyone on the set. On French radio today, feminist Caroine de Haas, herself a victim of sexual violence, said she accepts Deneuve's apology.


CAROLINE DE HAAS: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "It is sincerely welcome," said de Haas, "because this letter in Le Monde did a lot of damage. Today Denevue recognized that being a victim is not the problem. The violence is." Deneuve called herself a free woman and a feminist. She said she didn't mean to offend victims of sexual aggression and she owed them an apology. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.